Mismanagement mars horticulture sector
Himachal gets 8 pack-house projects; JK fails to set up 1 in 7 years
Srinagar, July 27: Administrative inertia and myopic planning have marred the implementation of state-of-the-art integrated pack-house in J&K.
Okayed by the Centre at the cost of about Rs 4 crore, the pack-house is still a dream despite its foundation stone laid by then Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed in 2005 and then Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Jairam Ramesh raising the matter of infinite delay in executing the project with State Government in 2007.
Informed sources said that Jammu and Kashmir Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) falling under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Industry and Commerce for setting up of an integrated pack-house in the Valley with 100 percent Central funding. The project, then first of its type in the country, was designed to have capacity of 50000 boxes, besides 100 MT cold storage facility.
According to sources, the contract for executing the project was allotted to three agencies and each of them was allocated specific portions of the job.
Subsequently, then Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed laid foundation stone of the project in Choudrigund Shopian in June 2005 and after three months Centre released Rs 1.39 crore vide letter No. JKAPPLES dated 5th October, 2005, against 35 percent of the total cost of the project and other expenses.
Later, according to sources, State Government subsequently decided to shift the location of the project in vicinity of Shopian satellite Mandi – an indicator of its ill-planning.
“The State Government later approached Centre for its concurrence to shift of location and without wasting time the latter gave nod to the project,” they added.
While land was to be purchased in the vicinity of Shopian market for the project, sources said the administrative department – Agriculture Production Department (APD) – was averse to it, citing shortage of funds.
Ironically, APD, which claimed to have no money for purchasing the land, spends crores of rupees each year in the name of Kissan Melas.
The documents accessed by this newspaper reveal that Centre had repeatedly raised the matter of inordinate delay in taking up the project with State Government and even then CM Ghulam Nabi Azad was apprised of it in 2007.
There was no word on the project for three years from APD as well as J&K Horticulture Produce Marketing Corporation (HPMC). Finally in 2010, the HPMC decided to set up the project at its earlier location.
But, according to sources, there are bleak chances of completion of the project due to cost escalation.
“There are hardly any chances that the project would be completed within original cost limit of Rs 3.88 crore as even in 2007 the three firms allotted the contract had sought 15 percent, 20 percent and Rs 1 crore more than earlier quoted rates,” they said.
Top officials in Centre told Greater Kashmir that lethargy of State Government in setting up the pack-house is costing State dearly and creating hindrances in providing other central-aided infrastructure to horticulture sector.
“While other States have received funds worth crores of rupees for constructing pack-houses, Jammu and Kashmir has failed to set up a single such facility,” they said, adding that Himachal Pradesh which produces meager 30 percent of apples in the country has got eight such projects approved.
A group of fruit growers of the Valley said that the failure of State Government in setting up the project shows its apathy and discrimination towards the horticulture sector.
“Going by the treatment of Government towards the apple industry, it seems that it is hell bent upon ruining the sector which provides livelihood to lakhs of people in the Valley,” they alleged.
When contacted, Minister of State for Horticulture Javaid Ahmad Dar said he has no information about the project.
Repeated attempt to get version of officials of HPMC proved futile, as they claimed that they were scolded by higher ups of JK Government ‘for leaking information to media’ over the mess in horticulture sector.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 Jul 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 Jul 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 Jul 2012 00:00:00 IST
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